The church is digging its own grave

How is that title? Hyperbolic enough for you? I know, I know.

I watched a great discussion the other day between Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett (posted over at Friendly Atheist), in which they bashed religion and incessantly mocked believers talked about a range of topics including language, evolution, atheism, and the church. They talked about Dennett's interviews with closet atheists in the clergy, which he had discussed back at AAI 2009. That research project spun into a website called The Clergy Project, which is an anonymous, invitation-only forum for current and former preachers who are non-believers. It's now sitting just shy of 300 members.

Dan Dennett made some interesting comments about just how forceful we need to be as atheists, in the sense of trying to persuade others to our perspective. He contends that religion is "unraveling itself", and he's right. The change is happening, but not in the most obvious ways. If we're hoping for some mass exodus from the church in which everyone reads The God Delusion and calls themselves atheists... it's not going to happen. 

What's going to happen is really what's been happening for some time:
  • People will be increasingly skeptical about organized religion – especially young people
  • Church attendance will accordingly drop
  • Even among believers, religion will not be as important as it used to be
  • Churches will water down liberalize their doctrines to reflect changing social norms
  • Other churches will lean more toward fundamentalism, which will spur further skepticism and apostasy from more reasonable parishioners
Think I'm just pulling this out of my bum? Well, I'm not. There is ample research to show that this is already happening. It's been happening for quite some time.
  1. More and more young people are skeptical of God's existence [1]
  2. Polls show that religion isn't as important to people as it used to be [2 – and the really interesting stat is not the small decrease in the number who say it is 'very important', but the large increase in the number who say it is 'not very important']
  3. Church attendance is falling [3, 4, 5 (love the first comment on that one)]
  4. Despite the overall decline of religion, conservative churches are growing [6]

Here's the whole discussion between Dawkins and Dennett: 

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